Negatives for the Pacific Division if League Expansion

PHOENIX - JANUARY 3: Kevin Durant
PHOENIX - JANUARY 3: Kevin Durant /

Since the SuperSonics left Washington to become the Oklahoma City Thunder, the upper northwest has clamored for another team to fill the void left in Seattle. SB Nation actually still has a Seattle SuperSonics blog with the hopes that a team will eventually be placed there once more.

While there is no sure scenario for how the NBA might expand yet, whether or not Seattle would be the preferred first Western Conference destination, or if the league would add a second team to balance out the Conferences, the Suns could be one of those teams who is hurt the most when it happens.

When considering Expansion, it only seems only fitting that the NBA would look to add two teams at one per Conference to balance out scheduling between the two. Doing this makes sense makes sense so that the Western teams aren’t disproportionality disadvantaged in having fewer inter-Conference games versus some teams than the East.

And hey, there’s a reason that the United States hasn’t added another state in the last 58 years: 50 stars on the flag and 100 Senators in D.C. is very balanced and semetrical. While 32 teams is a bit awkward compared to 30, it sure does feel a lot more balanced when each Conference is hampered with one six-team Division, rather than only one in one Conference. (Also remember, in both 1989 and 1996 the league expanded by two, one in each Conference. Not a coincidence.

That being said, if the league re-added a Seattle team, they would likely be placed back in the Pacific Division, adding a sixth team that would muddle up Divisional play.

Should this happen, there is no guarantee that the league would simply place Seattle in the Pacific and walk away. They could – based on distances within markets – actually subsequently move Phoenix to the Northwest Division (which at that point would be in need of a name change) and force the Suns to face off with the Utah Jazz, Denver Nuggets, Oklahoma City Thunder, Portland Trailblazers, and Minnesota Timberwolves.

One positive to switching Divisions to the “northwest” would be that the Suns would likely then be the crown jewel of the Division and have a much better chance at winning it with regularity. Historically those small-market teams have struggled to find any consistent winning (minus Utah during the Karl Malone and John Stockton era), and the Suns could find themselves in Divisional supremacy every year.

That being said, there is no better rivalry in all of the state of professional sports in Arizona than the Phoenix Suns and the Los Angeles Lakers – and in many ways, the state of California in general. The Suns are the the state’s longest running team, and the Lakers have been their main rivals since day one. Yes, the chances of the Lakers being a dominant team for long stretches is higher than that of another team in the current Northwest Division, but the chance to take them down at their peak during, at least in my opinion, far out-weighs any other option.

Should the league re-institute the Seattle SuperSonics and place them in the Pacific Division and change nothing more, then unless the league made drastic changes to the overall scheduled aslignment of the league – potentially taking inter-conference games away – then the Pacific Division would face each other fewer times each year as compared to other five-team Divisions.

Playing fewer games each year versus the Lakers would lessen the impact of a long-standing rivalry that has few similar matchups league-wide. So while adding Seattle would re-kindle those old Divisonal flames, should it take from the Los Angeles-based contests, playing the Sonics again just isn’t worth it.

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Sure, at first the Suns would feast on the bad Sonics teams for a few years padding their own win total, but at what cost? Sarver wants to guarantee fan’s butts in the arena’s seats, and while I’m confident he’d prefer them to be all Suns fans, for those seasons when local supporters aren’t showing up, he’ll take anyone in there, even when their secondary shade with purple, is gold.

In the end, I would be all for the re-introduction of the Seattle SuperSonics. Granted the league would become even more thin in talent per team than they already are, but that franchise was once a stalwart in the NBA, and the Western Conference just has not felt the same ever since their move to the Oklahoma.

However, if it forces the Suns to move and make rivals out of less than Interesting mid-market teams for the foreseeable future, or lessen the yearly excitement of facing the Los Angeles Lakers every year, I don’t want anything to do with it.